23 January 2008

Another star has fallen…

Typically I’m not one for Hollywood gossip and infotainment. I’m not an avid moviegoer and I don’t often concern myself with the details and lives of the rich and famous. However, I will admit that I was both shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Heath Ledger.

At the tender age of 28, Heath Ledger had a promising career ahead of him. As both a new father and an acclaimed actor, he had the world at his feet. He seemed to steer clear of the limelight and the typical glitz and glam of the industry and yet his body was discovered yesterday in that ‘all too familiar’ Hollywood way – unconscious, with sleeping pills by his side. Accident or suicide? I suppose we’ll never know the true answer.

Why is it that so many actors and entertainers take their life or die at such a young age? It seems like such a terrible waste. Perhaps it’s a matter of trying to keep up with expectations and the pressure of always being bigger and better. Perhaps it’s because their careers take off so suddenly and they can’t cope with the new fame, fortune and lifestyle. Perhaps actors and wired differently; maybe they ‘feel’ more than the average person or maybe they’re more sensitive to emotions. Perhaps they become so consumed by the characters that they portray, that they loose sight of their own persona. The notion of “tortured artist” may not to too far off the mark.

What truly angers me is the fact that so many actors fail to realize the potential that they have. While I have no doubt that fame can be quite harrowing, it can also be used to a great advantage. So many of us have things to say, important message and ideas to deliver, and yet we lack the means, interest and audience to ever make a difference. Think of the tremendous amount of good that can be done by entertainers. Just their sheer popularity is enough to mobilize society. Being a legend goes beyond the silver screen, concert hall and theatre, it applies to life and philanthropy as well. Look at people like Bob Hope, Paul Newman, Roger Moore, Paul Hewson (Bono) and Oprah. They are shining examples of famous people who have led successful careers in entertainment, while managing to keep a cool head and find fulfillment by contributing to society. Rather than yielding to fame, they have used it to its full advantage.

As an average Joe, it all seems so simple to me. My life is a million miles away from glitz and glam. I suppose I will never completely understand the pressures or power of fame and fortune. What I do know is that life is precious, no matter how it is lived. To die at 28 is a tragedy.

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